One of my favorite herbs sits in my perennial herb bed, and it’s a basil. Yep, a perennial basil. I never even knew such a thing existed until I found my African Blue at a nursery. It flowers almost year-round with pretty purple and lavender buds on long stems, but never bolts and tastes just as lovely as it looks and smells.
African Blue basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum “Dark Opal”) is a sterile hybrid of an East African camphor basil and a standard garden variety called Dark Opal. Propagated only through cuttings, African Blue survived an unusually cold and wet winter outside in my zone 10b (Sunset zone 24). Though its growth slowed for a couple months, it perked right up in spring and thrived into a wild-looking shrub. Considered a tender perennial, it probably won’t live through frost, but overwinters well if grown in a container indoors. And since it just likes to grow and grow, it benefits from as large a container as you can give it.
New foliage starts out a deep purple but as the leaves mature, they become bright green, retaining only flecks of purple. The herb has a strong, earthy basil flavor with a mellow camphor scent. If rosemary and clove had a basil baby, it would be African Blue.
Since this breed of basil doesn’t go to seed, you can let the flowers bloom all they want, and the plant will still keep going strong for many years. If you want a bushier basil, you can pinch it off and use the edible flower stems as a soup or salad garnish… float them in a glass of iced tea… or sprinkle the buds over roasted potatoes.
Some of my blooms grow over 10 inches tall and I arrange them all over my house in fragrant mini bouquets.
I have to admit that I’m rather spoiled now. I pick fresh basil in my garden year-round. It’s a kitchen gardener’s dream!
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